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These Complex Bottles of Sauternes Make the Case for Sweet Wine

Images Courtesy of Vivino

When the average drinker thinks of Bordeaux, bold red blends of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot or rich Bordeaux Blancs might come to mind. But under the right conditions, the grapes Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon and Muscadelle produce exquisite bottlings of Sauternes, a deeply flavorful sweet white wine you don’t want to miss. These wines are nothing like the subpar-quality, sugar-laden offerings that historically have contributed to sweet wine’s poor reputation in the U.S.

Haven’t tried Sauternes yet? Consider this your signal to snag a bottle.

What Is Sauternes Wine?

Sauternes is a smaller wine sub-region of Bordeaux known for a sweet white wine of the same name. It’s made with grapes that have a super-concentrated flavor due to Botrytis (also known as noble rot). The primary grapes found in this wine are Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc, but may also include Muscadelle. The Sémillon grape is particularly susceptible to Botrytis and is well known as the most important grape variety in Sauternes for this reason. The wine is full-bodied with high acidity, which helps balance out the wine’s sweet notes and helps with longevity, explains Wine Enthusiast Senior Tasting Coordinator Craig Chamberlain.

What Does Sauternes Taste Like?

The flavors of Sauternes vary slightly depending on the exact bottle, but typical flavors include honey, butterscotch, coconut and tropical fruits, Chamberlain says. The wine may also have notes of apricot and sometimes smoke or vanilla when oaked.